MSU Football Blog
By Jesse O'Brien
Last updated: 11/26/12 10:20pm
Although the MSU football might not be planning a trip to Indianapolis this December, at least five Spartans will be receiving some hardware courtesy of the conference.
The Big Ten announced its conference honors as selected by the coaches and media Monday night, and five players found themselves named to the first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches, including junior running back Le’Veon Bell, who was named to the first-tem by the media as well.
Bell is ranked third in the nation for rushing, averaging 137.3 yards per game, which also puts him atop the Big Ten. His 266-yard rushing performance at Minnesota on Saturday was his seventh 100 yard rushing game of the year, and his third of more than 200 yards.
“Le’Veon Bell finished the regular season as the Big Ten’s leading rusher,” head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement to the MSU athletics department. “He was a workhorse throughout the season and he finished strong. Le’Veon provided consistent production, and over the last three games, he really showed what he could do once he got to the second level of the defense.”
Bell also raked in Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Golden Gophers, his third of the season.
The other four Spartans honored by the coaches were junior linebacker Max Bullough, senior cornerback Johnny Adams, junior cornerback Darqueze Dennard and sophomore punter Mike Sadler. Bullough, Adams, Dennard and Sadler were also named the media’s second-team selections.
Junior tight end Dion Sims was named to both the coaches’ and media’s second team lists, while junior defensive end William Gholston pulled in second-team media honors, and coaches honorable mention.
Senior guard Chris McDonald, juniors linebacker Denicos Allen and safety Isaiah Lewis and sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush rounded out the honorable mention selections for the Spartans, each being tapped by both the coaches and media.
The five first team selections are the most for MSU since 1999.
The honor for MSU’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, presented to each a student-athlete from each team who exhibits sportsmanship and ethical behavior, went to sophomore wide receiver Keith Mumphery.
By Jesse O'Brien
Last updated: 11/24/12 5:16pm
Although the MSU football team was able to overcome a pair of Andrew Maxwell mistakes to enter halftime with a 13-7 lead, the junior quarterback needs to be sharper if MSU wants to keep control during the second half.
Twice, Maxwell threw costly interceptions that halted MSU drives, including one returned for Minnesota’s only touchdown of the day. Later in the game, Maxwell was picked off at the goal line, on a pass intended for junior tight end Dion Sims.
Both interceptions came on what were arguably two of Maxwell’s worst thrown balls of the year.
Despite MSU outgaining the Golden Gophers 248 yards to 53 yards, Maxwell’s turnovers have allowed Minnesota to keep the game much closeer than it should be through one half of play.
MSU will receive the ball at the start of the second half after Minnesota had the ball to begin the game.
By Josh Mansour
Last updated: 11/17/12 1:48pm
Another first half ends for the MSU football team (5-5 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) with a missed scoring opportunity as senior kicker Dan Conroy couldn’t connect on a 37-yard field goal, allowing Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) to head to the locker room in front, 6-5.
The missed field goal was one of three failed scoring chances for the Spartans, who also bungled two opportunities on the Wildcats’ one-yard line in the game’s opening 30 minutes.
First, junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell was unable to handle the snap on a quarterback sneak, fumbling the football near the goal line with Northwestern recovering the football.
The Spartans were able to rebound, with juniors Max Bullough and William Gholston teaming up for a safety to put MSU on the scoreboard on the ensuing possession, but the misadventures at the Northwestern one-yard line continued.
After Conroy hit a 35-yard field goal to give MSU its first lead 5-3 on the opening drive of the second quarter, the Spartans attempted to make it two straight drives with a score, but junior running back Le’Veon Bell was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, losing three yards on the carry.
If the Spartans aren’t able to respond and pull out a victory in their home finale, there are already a number of plays they’ll look back on and wonder what could have been.
By Jesse O'Brien
Last updated: 11/09/12 3:12pm
The short list for the 2012 Doak Walker Award given to the nation’s top running back has been released, and junior running back Le’Veon Bell has found himself among the 10 finalists.
In his first year as MSU’s clear cut starting back, Bell has rushed for 1,249 yards and 10 touchdowns on 283 attempts, as well as catching 29 passes out of the backfield for 145 yards and a touchdown. In 10 games, Bell has recorded five 100-yard rushing games, two of which he rushed for more than 200 yards.
He joins Wisconsin running back Montee Ball as the Big Ten’s only other representative on the list.
The winner will be announced Thursday, Dec. 6, on ESPN.
By Omari Sankofa II
Last updated: 11/04/12 8:51pm
The MSU football team definitely could have had a better Saturday evening.
Following an inspiring and much-needed 16-13 overtime victory over Wisconsin two weeks ago, the Spartans had a crushing 28-24 loss to Nebraska on Saturday, a game that many students and players would say they should have won.
The blame for Saturday’s loss mostly has gone to the refs, who many believe made sketchy calls throughout the game.
When the score was 24-14 in the fourth quarter, junior cornerback Darqueze Dennard returned an intercepted pass for a touchdown, a stunning play that then was negated due to a questionable penalty on senior Johnny Adams.
Toward the end of the fourth with Nebraska down by three, Dennard was penalized for pass-interference call that brought Nebraska the 5-yard line.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez proceeded to throw the game-winning touchdown to receiver Jamal Turner with six seconds left on the clock.
With frustrations running high, several Spartans turned to Twitter after the game to voice some disapproval.
Junior running back Le’Veon Bell tweeted “#ShoutOut to the refs…yall won the game tonight! Toughest team we played all year…”
Junior nose tackle Denzel Drone shared a similar sentiment, tweeting “Thanks to the big ten referees y’all won the game once again for the opponent of MSU!!!! Y’all some bums for this one!!!”
Although many students felt the same way, these tweets, which since have been deleted, were completely unnecessary.
Complaining about questionable calls to head coach Mark Dantonio is fine. Complaining to the media would have been more acceptable.
Complaining to Twitter solves absolutely nothing. Instead of drawing light to a valid point, the players vented to their followers, which isn’t the best way to successfully argue a point.
Just ask Lindsay Lohan.
As an athlete, part of the job is remaining classy in the face of adversity. The refereeing affected the outcome of the game, no doubt. But the refs didn’t catch the touchdown pass for Nebraska, nor did they allow Martinez to run 35 yards for a touchdown with roughly seven minutes left to play.
The loss is just another in what has been a disappointing season for the Spartans. Hanging your head and complaining only compounds the disappointment, which is the last thing a team that is 2-4 in the Big Ten needs.
In the future, players should channel their frustrations toward playing at a higher level in the future, not toward blaming the fall guy. After all, it’s not like the refs are going anywhere anytime soon.
By Jesse O'Brien
Last updated: 11/03/12 5:22pm
After holding the vaunted Wisconsin running game to 19 yards last week, the Spartans have struggled to contain the No. 21 Cornhusker rushers, allowing 211 yards on the ground through the first half, including a pair of killer runs by quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Martinez’s first long pickup came after MSU bit hard on a play fake, allowing him to scamper along the right side line for a 59-yard gain that set the Huskers up on MSU’s three yardline, which ended in a touchdown.
Then with less than four minutes to go in the first half, Nebraska ran the same play, but this time, Martinez took it to the house for a 71-yard touchdown which knotted the game at 14. Martinez has eight carries for 156 yards through the first 30 minutes of play.
Nebraska also has had success with running back Ameer Abdullah has been able to use his speed to get around MSU’s defenders for big gains around the outside. Martinez has used this to his advantage, taking runs up the gut when MSU’s defense defends the outside run.
Although most of the week leading up to the game had focused on running back Rex Burkhead’s health — he did not dress today — that focus now has shifted to Martinez, who the Spartans will need to contain if they want a chance to hold on to win this one.
By Jesse O'Brien, Josh Mansour
Last updated: 11/03/12 3:26pm
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
We’re about to find out, as the Big Ten’s top rushing defense squares off against the conference’s number one rushing attack when MSU (5-4 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) takes on No. 21 Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) at Spartan Stadium for only the seventh time in program history.
The Cornhuskers have won each of the previous six matchups, but this time MSU looks to shut down Nebraska’s historically effective running game with its own vaunted defense.
With the pregame clock slowly ticking towards zero, Josh and I make our pregame predictions for today’s game.
Jesse: Not to state the obvious, but if MSU wants to leave Spartan Stadium with a victory, they’ll need to shut down Nebraska’s running game, a task that became much easier with news tail back Rex Burkhead is not dressed for today’s game.
But expect Nebraska to run early and often, and potentially wear down the line of green near the end of the game. This will be an extremely physical game, and MSU will need next week’s bye to recover from it.
However, MSU’s defense isn’t the question mark here — it is, as it has been all season, on the offense to get things done. And to do that, junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell might need to make some plays himself, a weapon in his arsenal, but one that has not been utilized very often this year. Nebraska likes to use man coverage on the receivers, which could give Maxwell some running room if his receivers can pull the Husker linebackers away from the middle of the field.
All that said, MSU is riding a lot of momentum from last week’s win in Camp Randall, and I’d expect to see that energy carry over into this week’s game.
Prediction: MSU 17, Nebraska 14
Josh: When MSU and Nebraska take the football field, another low-scoring slugfest can be expected.
With temperatures hovering around the high 30s, both teams should try to run the ball early and often, which could be made more difficult for Nebraska, which will likely be without star running back Rex Burkhead.
With that in mind, expect conservative offensive play calling from the Cornhuskers, and a close game where neither team runs away with it.
MSU is very experienced in these types of game, with each of its Big Ten games decided by four points or less.
The Spartans are coming off a win last week in one of those close games against a team that was favored to beat them, and although they’ve never beaten Nebraska, they’ll find a way to steal a win at home.
Prediction: MSU 13, Nebraska 10
By Jesse O'Brien
Last updated: 10/31/12 8:51pm
Between the third and fourth quarters of MSU’s emotional 16-13 overtime victory over Wisconsin, Badger fans began their usual Jump Around mayhem, bouncing up and down to the House of Pain jam blaring over the loudspeakers.
The press box shook, the crowd was electric, and down on the field, the MSU football team joined in, showing they weren’t ready to give up despite trailing 7-3.
“I said last week we had to go up there and jump around, and I guess they took me for my word,” Dantonio said of the impromptu dancing. We were down 7-3, but we were having fun.”
And the dancing didn’t stop at the end of the third quarter. After the Spartans completed the comeback to finish off the Badgers, Dantonio joined his team in the locker room for a little post-game celebration.
“I think that’s what football should be about,” the sixth year head coach said. “We have a good time with it. I may be an ultra serious person on the sidelines, who knows, may be depicted as that. That was a great feeling after that football game. Everybody was just doing their deal. Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Dantonio said it was the first time he’d done the dance with his players and couldn’t really term it aside from calling it “an up and down deal.”
Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell said maybe the team should put it on their agenda to find a name for the Dantonio ditty sometime this week.
“When you have a great win like that, he’s truly overjoyed and truly happy for our football team,” Maxwell said of his coach’s exuberance. “One person starts dancing, it goes for the whole team. He’s in the middle. He said, Why not, I’ll jump in. That was a neat moment to experience.”
Junior running back Le’Veon Bell, couldn’t quite define the move himself, but said watching his normally stone-faced head coach cut loose was something that helped he and his teammates keep a high level of energy.
“He was just jumping around and getting hype,” he said. “I don’t know what you’d really call it but Coach D was excited and we feed off of him. So when he gets excited he gets it going, that’s when we get excited, we get it going.”
Senior linebacker Chris Norman added he’d never seen Dantonio dance like that before, but enjoyed the moment.
“That was good to see,” he began. “And it was really funny at the same time,” he laughed.
By Jesse O'Brien
Last updated: 10/29/12 9:01pm
Following MSU’s 12-10 heartbreaking loss to then-No. 23 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Oct. 20, junior wide receiver Bennie Fowler began to spout off a phrase oft repeated by the Spartans during their fall to 4-4 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten.
“We can still finish 8-4, so all of our goals,” he said, before taking a pause. “Still might be in front of us.”
What Fowler said was technically true. The Spartans could win out, the Wolverines could tank and Iowa could stumble, leaving the top spot in the Big Ten Legends division — and a trip to Indianapolis to play in the conference championship —wide open. But with games against Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern left on MSU’s schedule, it seemed the Spartans were all but dead in the water.
Here’s what the Big Ten Legends division standings looked like on Friday.
Legends Conf. record All games
Michigan 3-0 (1.000) 5-2 (.714)
Nebraska 2-1 (.667) 5-2 (.714)
Iowa 2-1 (.667) 4-3 (.571)
Northwestern 2-2 (.500) 6-2 (.750)
Michigan State 1-3 (.250) 4-4 (.500)
Minnesota 0-3 (.000) 4-3 (.571)
Following Saturday’s games — in which the Spartans battled back to beat Wisconsin 16-13 in overtime — here’s what the standings look like now.
Legends Conf. record All games
Nebraska 3-1 (.750) 6-2 .750
Michigan 3-1 (.750) 5-3 .625
Northwestern 3-2 (.600) 7-2 .778
Iowa 2-2 (.500) 4-4 .500
Michigan State 2-3 (.400) 5-4 .556
Minnesota 1-3 (.250) 5-3 .625
Not a ton of change, but just enough for the Spartans to have a sliver of hope. They’re still alive. And here’s why;
Coming off a big win in Wisconsin, MSU will be riding a wave of momentum. If they can keep it rolling and beat No. 21 Nebraska at home this Saturday, they’re in good shape to win out, and finish — as Fowler predicted — 8-4 with a 5-3 mark in the Big Ten.
Of course, that alone won’t put the Spartans atop the Legends division. With Hurricane Sandy approaching, it seems fitting that MSU will need a perfect storm of Big Ten craziness to make its way to the Big Ten Championship. We’ll start with what the Spartans need from Michigan.
MSU essentially is three games behind the Wolverines right now, so the Spartans will need a monumental collapse in Ann Arbor to even sniff the Big Ten Championship.
However, after the Wolverines fell to Nebraska and lost starting quarterback Denard Robinson to an aggravated an elbow injury, Michigan’s trip to Minnesota becomes a little more difficult if Robinson can’t play. And with games against a hot Northwestern team and No. 6 Ohio State, three losses aren’t outside the realm of possibility.
But MSU also needs some help dealing with Iowa after a bad 16-13 Homecoming loss to the Hawkeyes on Oct. 13. Since the Hawkeyes hold the tiebreaker, MSU will need Iowa to lose at least two of its remaining four games against Indiana, Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska. The two most likely losses here are Michigan and Nebraska, but don’t be surprised if Indiana or Purdue sneaks one by either.
So let’s say the Spartans win out, Michigan falls tremendously and MSU gets enough of a push to jump ahead of Iowa. There’s still Nebraska and Northwestern to worry about.
If MSU takes care of business against the Cornhuskers and the Wildcats — for the sake of the situation, we’ll assume they do — they’ll still need Nebraska to lose at least one more game to unseat the Huskers from the top of the Big Ten.
Nebraska’s final three games are against Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa. It seems unlikely for the Huskers to lose to Minnesota, and MSU will probably need them to beat Iowa to stay alive. That leaves the Spartans rooting for 5-3, 3-1 Penn State to knock off Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. on Nov. 10.
Not the most promising scenario, but like I said, MSU needs a lot of help. Head hurt yet? Mine does. Let’s break it down one last time.
If all that happens, here’s what the Big Ten could look like when all’s said and done;
Legends Conf. record All games
Michigan State 5-3 (.625) 8-4 (.667)
Nebraska 5-3 (.625) 8-4 (.667)
Northwestern 5-3 (.625) 9-3 (.750)
Michigan 4-4 (.500) 6-6 (.500)
Iowa 4-4 (.500) 7-5 (.583)
Minnesota 3-5 (.375) 7-5 (.583)
Because MSU would hold the tiebreaker over both Nebraska and Northwestern, in this hypothetical situation, the Spartans would find themselves headed to Indy to be the Legends division representative for the Big Ten Championship.
Crazy? Yes. Likely? Not really. But possible? You bet.
With the way this Big Ten season has gone, just about anything is possible. But before you start planning your trip to Indy — and I seriously would advise against doing that just yet — Keep in mind that every team in the Legends division still is mathematically in the race to win the division. Even Minnesota (Don’t ask me to explain that one).
So what it all boil down to is this — root for MSU to win out and for Michigan to tank (as if you were not doing this already), root for Iowa to lose two of its final four games and root for Nebraska to lose at least one more.
By Josh Mansour
Last updated: 10/27/12 5:10pm
Madison, Wis. — All season long, the MSU football team has been searching for a break to go its way.
In a season of close calls and heartbreak, lady luck has been an unfamiliar mistress, refusing to even acknowledge the Spartans’ existence, other than to ignore their advances in favor of the apparently more appealing opposition.
But when a poor snap led to a blocked punt by sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush, the Spartans (4-4 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) appeared to have their chance.
MSU’s offense, which has struggled to sustain lengthy drives, has rarely been given great field position, but after the blocked punt, the Spartans had the ball at Wisconsin’s 11-yard line, with a chance to take their first lead.
Yet what ensued was a comedy of errors, ending with MSU not only outside the red zone, but no longer in field goal range, forced to punt and unable to cut into the Badgers’ (6-2, 3-1) 7-3 lead.
A holding penalty, an incomplete pass to junior running back Le’Veon Bell, a false start penalty, an eight-yard sack, another incomplete pass, this time an uncatchable ball intended for sophomore receiver Tony Lippett, and it was over.
Three official plays resulted in a loss of 23 yards and no points.
With Wisconsin maintaining its 7-3 lead into halftime, it’s clear a major opportunity was missed.
The only question is how costly it will end up being.